Rahxephon-Volume 5: Synaesthesia (2001)

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Released 14-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Menu Animation & Audio
Booklet-16pp
Credits-clean opening (1:31), clean closing (1:31)
Interviews-Crew-Hiroki Kanno (9:25)
Gallery-Production Sketches (4:08)
Gallery-Original Japanese Cover Artwork (1:10)
Trailer-ADV Previews (4)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 70:48 (Case: 75)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yutaka Izubuchi
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Aya Hisakawa
Monica Rial
Hiro Shimono
Chris Patton
Houko Kuwashima
Kira Vincent Davis
Maaya Sakamoto
Mandy Clark
Yuu Sugimoto
Christine Auten
Yumi Kakazu
Cynthia Martinez
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Ichiko Hashimoto


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode preview

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the fifth volume of RahXephon, a young-man-is-only-pilot-of-giant-mecha anime series with a musical bent. As those who have read my reviews of the previous volumes: Orchestration (volume 1), Tonal Pattern (volume 2), Harmonic Convergence (volume 3), and Dissonance (volume 4) will know, that's something of a misrepresentation: there are episodes that are completely without giant mecha, and besides, the RahXephon isn't exactly a mecha.

    The three episodes on this disc are:

17 23:36 Return to the Labyrinth Ground Zero Ayato and Quon, in the RahXephon, are headed directly for Tokyo Jupiter, while Elvy and Haruka, in the Vermilion, attempt to stop them
18 23:36 The Bond of Blue Blood The Memory of a Lost City Ayato tries desperately to understand his origins. He meets Asahina and Torigai again, and confronts his mother
19 23:36 Blue Friend Ticket to Nowhere Ayato and Asahina are on the run from everyone, and hiding secrets from one another.

    Three episodes again — it might be a shorter disc to review, but I continue to feel a bit short-changed paying the same for a three episode disc. Funny — I don't mind four and five, but three seems somewhat meagre. However, there is one good aspect to this: there's a story arc that encompasses exactly these three episodes.

    As is normal for this series, there are two titles for every episode above — one (shown on the left above) shows up in the English subtitles, while the other is burned into the titles. I still don't know why there are two, but I suspect that the left one is a literal translation of the title in Japanese. On this disc, the subtitle version shows up directly over the burned-in version, which is a bit of a pain, making both difficult to read.

    The previous volume felt fairly slow-paced. This one is definitely not — there is a lot going on, and even when the characters aren't moving, their minds are churning away.

    When we left the previous volume, Ayato and Quon had taken off in the RahXephon, headed for Tokyo Jupiter. This volume picks up from there, with Helena (and the white-haired man who has aligned himself with her) giving orders that the Vermilion be sent to capture or destroy the RahXephon. Haruka insists that Elvy let her aboard the Vermilion for this mission — one gets the impression she'd have stowed away if possible.

    British aristocracy beware! In this series, having blue blood is the defining sign of being a Mulian, the enemy. For the first time we get to learn a bit about the Mulians, when Maya is talking to Ayato. But what little we learn is annoying, a mere tease. Let's hope we learn more in the next volume!

    Helena Bähbem is wielding her power more openly now, issuing direct orders in the TERRA control centre, even though she has no acknowledged authority to do so. She is easy to dislike, and I'm following the easy path. Isshiki, the sinister white-haired man, seems to have appointed himself as her sidekick for the moment (the two have a long history together, as we learned in the last volume).

    The show will have plenty of replayability, because I suspect it will take multiple viewings to appreciate all the convolutions of the plot through the various characters. This is a good thing, because it makes buying the DVDs seem like the smart move.

    There are lots of story elements building up now. There are two volumes to go, and it looks like they will be chock-a-block with excitement.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. That's the intended aspect ratio for this series.

    Describing the video transfer for this series gets a little monotonous. Sharp image, vivid colours, next to no artefacts — these guys are trying to put reviewers out of a job! (And I'm happy about that.)

    The picture is sharp and clear, essentially in perfect focus almost all the time. There's no film grain, and no low level noise.

    Colour is magnificent, as we expect for this series. The foreground objects are coloured simply, mostly in swathes of single colours with one colour shading, but the colours used are well-chosen from an extensive palette. Backgrounds use more detailed shading, and look like they were painted in watercolours (it's quite pretty). There are a few scenes with very bright (over-hot) backgrounds, but this is a deliberate effect, and does not detract from the viewing experience.

    There are no noticeable film artefacts.

    There's less aliasing on this disc than on previous ones, especially on the first episode on the disc (which looks almost totally free of aliasing). There's no moiré or MPEG artefacts, and only a trace of background shimmer. If you single-frame the disc you can find some interleaving (you have to look for it), but it's not visible at normal speed.

    We get the usual two sets of English subtitles (and no others). The first set mostly subtitles the opening and closing songs, but also provides subtitles for a few signs. The second set subtitles the dialogue as well. They are easy to read, and seem well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is essentially invisible, but it is located between the second and third episodes. I must admit that I was not expecting a layer change on a disc with this little in the way of content.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, just as we expect. The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, at 448kbps, while the Japanese is only Dolby Digital 2.0, at 192kbps. This is the original Japanese track, not a cut-down version. Only the English was made in 5.1. A shame really, because the 5.1 track exhibits some lovely presence.

    The English dialogue is well-acted, and there are no dialogue sync discrepancies with the animation. The Japanese dialogue sounds fine, but it's quite difficult for me to assess comprehensibility; there are a few moments when the Japanese appears slightly out of sync with the animation, but the effect is only slight and difficult to assess in a language I don't speak.

    I find the music a real highlight in this series (as you'd hope, in a show so concerned with musical themes). Ichiko Hashimoto's score is really good. I find myself with the opening theme stuck in my head every time I watch this show — it sounds really good in 5.1.

    The English soundtrack offers good surround sound on occasions, and gives the sub a lot of work during battles. The Japanese soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded, so it provides no signal for surrounds or subwoofer, although bass management will send some sound to the sub if you have it enabled — this soundtrack is full range.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    All of the menus are animated with music. They are easy to use.

Booklet

    This is a real booklet, not a folded piece of paper. It's 16 pages long, and contains short interview pieces with three of the crew and six of the Japanese voice actors in addition to colour drawings of characters. Don't look at it before you watch the show — it contains some spoilers. Unfortunately, there is one spoiler for something that we still haven't seen even after these episodes.

Clean Opening (1:31)

    The strange but beautiful opening (I love the song) without credits (or subtitles). Exactly the same as on all previous volumes. While I love it, it's not a wonderful extra to have over and over and over. Note that this is one of the earliest versions of the opening, because the current one (on each of the episodes on this disc) has several different images.

Clean Closing (1:31)

    The closing, also without credits.

Interview with Hiroki Kanno (9:25)

    A short interview with one of the crew — Hiroki Kanno is credited with animation character designs, and he talks about how he got involved in the project, and which of the characters were easiest and hardest to design. He is far from an animated speaker (yes, pun intended), and the sound quality is not brilliant, but this is interesting enough.

Gallery — Production Sketches (4:08)

    Another free-running montage of sketches of a variety of characters and things. The theme music (an extended mix of it) plays over it. These are sketches that are exclusive to the episodes on this volume.

Gallery — Original Japanese Cover Artwork (1:10)

    These images are startling. You have to look twice to realise that these are impressions of the characters that we see in the show — they are so stylised. But they are really quite beautiful.

Trailers — ADV Previews (4:02)

    Four trailers that run one after another:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released September 2003. As far as I can tell, the two versions have the same features, the same episodes, the same extras (except for the choice of trailers in the previews), and even the same cover artwork. The R1 transfer sounds like it is at least as good as this one, or possibly even a smidgeon better.

    You can probably be happy with either the R1 or the R4. I am happy to have bought the Region 4 version for my collection.

Summary

    A beautifully drawn series, with a complex and detailed story, given an excellent transfer to DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are adequate, although the 40 minute interview on the previous disc did raise expectations...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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